Keep the water flowing: Funding available to help ranchers pay for required measuring infrastructure
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Funding is available to Routt County ranchers and farmers to install water-measuring infrastructure to better gauge how much water they are diverting.
Measuring devices and headgates have been a requirement in the area since the Yampa River went on call for the first time in 2018. The call meant people with junior water rights had to stop or diminish their diversions and pass the requested amount of water downstream until the senior water rights were fulfilled.
At the time, 65% of water users on the river had to curb or halt their use of water because they didn’t install a measuring device or a headgate on their diversion.
As Andy Rossi, Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District general manager, explained, instituting calls on rivers is more common in other parts of the state. He predicts calls on the Yampa will grow more frequent in the future. As the region struggles with a 20-year drought, which some experts are calling “the new normal,” keeping accurate tabs on water usage will become increasingly important.
“It is really critical they have this accurate record keeping,” Rossi said. “Without those records, there could be some pretty huge implications on those water rights.”
Every 10 years, the Colorado Division of Water Resources evaluates every water right in the state, through diversion records and site visits, to determine its use over the past decade. Colorado water law says that if the owner of a water right does not use his or her allocated water for its intended use, then it could end up on the state’s abandonment list. For a water user to maintain his or her allocated water, he or she must put it to “beneficial use,” which for local farmers means irrigating for crops.
The Division of Water Resources published its most recent abandonment list July 3. It includes nearly 200 irrigation structures on the Yampa River that are not fulfilling their water rights. Owners of these rights can object to their inclusion on the abandonment list by filing a written statement with the division engineer. They have until July 1, 2021, to file an objection.
The local district has about $200,000 worth of funding to help farmers and ranchers afford the measuring devices thanks to a $100,000 match from the Yampa-White-Green Roundtable, according to Holly Kirkpatrick, communications manager for the conservancy district.
Her office will reimburse 50% of costs associated with the devices, Kirkpatrick said, up to $5,000. The district is taking application through 2021.
“We are seeing a huge uptick in interest for grant funds with people completing their projects,” Kirkpatrick said. “Folks are really interested in how they go about this process and getting projects completed before the end of year.”
For more information on the measuring devices and available funding, contact Kirkpatrick at email@example.com.
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